At the risk of being too repetitive and unoriginal, I'm sick of Black Friday
already and it hasn't really gotten here yet. Except that I've been
getting email ads with Black Friday in the subject since at least July.
Maybe since June.
Yeah, I know. "Old man yells at cloud" for all the good it's gonna do.
What they've done, instead of making shoppers (at least, this shopper) think that some special sales are going on, is to convince us that there's no such thing as Black Friday anymore. As I've said before, when every day is Black Friday, no day can be Black Friday - in the usual sense of a special day that kicks off the Christmas shopping season. It has just become another way of saying "SALE" in every retail place that pushes it.
Black Friday was supposedly called that because it was the day where businesses turned their annual ledgers from red ink to black ink, but in the last few years it seems to have morphed into something else. It has been reported for years that the big deals aren't necessarily really deals at all (2014 study), or that some companies raise their prices in the weeks (months?) before the day so that what would have been a normal, small discount from MSRP suddenly seems like a deal. It's being reported (2016) that more and more people are carrying their smartphone into the stores to price check things, compare price and availability at other stores, or get coupons. I confess: I've done it and not just this time of year.
Once there started to be a perception that good deals came on Black Friday, it was only a matter of time until it became just another way of saying “BIG SALE!” But shoppers like to think they're getting big deals, and there are stores that put one or two items on a massive discount to get some people to line up the night before. Maybe they can get some buzz on the news. Of course, now that stores are opening on Thanksgiving itself, Friday seems like it loses some drawing power. Regardless, every year there's some incident where people get violent (2016) over something stupid.
It always pays to know what going prices are. I've heard that generally speaking, the best time for deals is closer to Christmas, especially right before Christmas. You'll get better prices than this week, but it's a gamble. You're betting that the stores will be stuck with something you want and they would rather discount it than not sell it. If they sell out first you lose. If they don't sell out but still won't or can't cut the price, again you lose. That said, it has worked out for me in the past. It's sort of like calling a bluff in poker.
Retail is a rough way to make a living. I'm sure you've heard how airline reservation systems base the seat price on the apparent interest in a flight. If you go back and check on the price of that seat every week, the system says there must be more demand for that flight and raises the price. What if stores could measure real time demand and adjust the price. Say you're looking for a new tool or other gadget; what if they see someone checking the web site regularly and interpret that as several people interested in that item and raised its price? Would you be upset or offended? What if they dropped the price to see at what level you can't resist pushing the Glistening, Candy-like, "BUY" button? I don't have any hard evidence that anyone does that, but it seems trivial for an online store to track interest in something. Their biggest risk is scaring away or alienating customers.
To me the Golden Rule is the willing seller/willing buyer. If people are happy with what they paid, regardless of whether or not it really is "the best price of the year," and the seller is happy with the price they got for it, that's definition of a fair price. I'm sure not gonna poop in someone's Post Toasties by telling them they didn't get the best price ever.
Jeez, I've been using this cartoon for a long time. It says "Joe Heller 2010" in the top left corner!